Friday, May 28, 2010

SPORTS>>Pitcher Evans Panthers’ postseason pick

Leader sports editor

Matt Evans certainly made opponents earn their runs this season.

The Cabot senior pitcher was the Panthers’ lone all-state selection after going 8-2 and posting a 1.40 ERA against a challenging slate of 7A-Central opponents. Evans’ ERA places him in Cabot’s all-time top three, and he added a .397 batting average as the team’s leadoff or No. 3 hitter.

“For sure he ended up being our best pitcher,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “I think he’s either second or third all time on our ERA.”

Evans helped keep Cabot in the mix during a confusing and hard-fought 7A-Central Conference race in which almost all of the eight teams were in the hunt for one of the six postseason berths heading into the final two games.

Cabot was eliminated in its last regular season game at Van Buren.

“Just a great player,” Fitch said of Evans. “We probably would have had a hard time even being in the hunt without him.”

With aluminum bats and a lot of solid hitters, the 7A classification has potential to provide some explosive offense, which makes Evans’ stingy ERA all the more impressive, Fitch said.

“That’s for sure,” he said. “To do that on the 7A level, you look at all the different classifications or conferences, you may have two or three out of the seven or eight that are pretty easy games but every game for us was a war.”

Fitch said Evans had weighed “seven or eight” good offers and is signing with Northeast Texas Junior College to continue his baseball career.

“You’re always proud of that,” Fitch said. “That’s kind of a feather in your cap as a coach and mostly in your program. But that’s something we take pride in. We’ve produced a lot of college kids. The last four or five years we’ve probably averaged between three to four players a year going to college.”

Fitch pointed to former Cabot standout Sam Bates, who is transferring to the Arkansas Razorbacks but will first play for Crowder in the Junior College World Series.

“So we’re excited about that too,” Fitch said.

Cabot had four players named to the 7A-Central all-conference team.

Outfielder and sometime leadoff man Powell Bryant, first baseman Tyler Erickson, catcher Andrew Reynolds and Evans were named to the first team. Center fielder Joe Bryant, infielder/pitcher Chase Beasley and hard-luck pitcher Cole Nicholson were second-team picks.

Nicholson was 3-7 but posted a 2.21 ERA, Fitch said, but was the victim of poor run support.

“Now how do you end up with seven losses?” Fitch said. “He had a lot of our close games we couldn’t quite pull out.”

Joe and Powell Bryant, twin brothers, made a habit of popping up on just about every athletic field Cabot has. The duo also played football in the defensive secondary and represented Cabot in the state decathlon at Cabot High School.

“They’ve done a lot of different sports and been good at all of them,” Fitch said.

Nicholson, a junior, will be the only returning player from Cabot’s cluster of postseason award winners. That means Fitch will be rebuilding in a tough conference.

“It’s kind of sad to see my seniors go,” he said before handing out awards during the team’s banquet Thursday night.